The Winter Session of Parliament commenced on Monday, 04 December 2023 and is planned to conclude on Friday, 22 December 2023. The Session is expected to have 15 sittings spread over a period of 19 days. During the first week, multiple issues were discussed including deepfakes, inequality, damage due to cyclones and extreme weather events.
The Winter Session of Parliament commenced on Monday, 04 December 2023 and is planned to conclude on Friday, 22 December 2023. The Session is expected to have 15 sittings spread over a period of 19 days. 19 items of Legislative Business and 2 items of Financial Business have been identified to be taken up during this session.
These include the Bhartiya Sakshya Adhiniyam, the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, The Central Universities (Amendment) Bill, the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill and the Provisional Collection of Taxes Bill 2023. Among Financial Business, there will be a Presentation, Discussion and Voting on the First Batch of Supplementary Demands for Grants for the year 2023-24 and the introduction, consideration and passing of the related Appropriation Bill.
This is the fourth session of 2023 following the regular Budget and Monsoon sessions and a special session held in September. This session will also be the last full-fledged session of the 17th Lok Sabha.
The Session began a day after the results of the Legislative Assembly elections were announced where BJP won in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan while the Congress won in Telangana. BJP MPs raised “Teesri Baar Modi Sarkar” and “Baar Baar Modi Sarkar” slogans in Lok Sabha in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as the session began.
India’s economic situation was the most widely discussed topic in the first week of the session. Derek O Brien stated that India’s richest 1% controlled 40% of the total wealth. The number of billionaires increased from 142 to 169 in three years. Meanwhile, between 2014 and 2023, he added that the price of rice increased by 56%, that of wheat by 59%, milk by 61%, tomatoes by 115% and Tur dal by 120%. He asked if the wealth created was passed on equitably.
Logistic and financial support was requested by Tamil Nadu following the damage caused by Cyclone Michaung in the state. Other states like Andhra Pradesh and Assam also raised their concerns with respect to the increasing drought and extreme weather events in the respective states.
Concerns over the use of deepfakes and the misuse of artificial intelligence were also raised in both houses. The Silkyara Tunnel Accident was discussed in the Upper House with the opposition highlighting the security violations in the tunnel such as lack of safety exit, trench cages, or safe tubes.
The low exchange rate of the Indian rupee against the US Dollar, increasing migration, unemployment rates, employment under MGNREGA, and air pollution standards were some other topics raised for discussion.
Important Standing Committee Reports
Some of the important parliamentary standing committee reports tabled in both the Houses are listed below. Three of them are reports analysing the Bills that have been listed for business in this parliament session and three reports were Action Taken Reports on Demands for Grants tabled earlier.
- Report on The Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023
- Report on The Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, 2023
- Report On The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023
- Action Taken by the Government on the Observations /Recommendations contained in the Twentieth Report of the Committee on Demands for Grants of the Ministry of External Affairs for the year 2023-24
- Action Taken by Government on the Recommendations/Observations contained in the Two Hundred Forty Third Report of the Committee on Demands for Grants (2023-24) of the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region
- Action Taken by Government on the Recommendations/Observations contained in the Two Hundred Forty Second Report of the Committee on Demands for Grants (2023-24) of the Ministry of Home Affairs
Bills introduced and passed
Post Office Bill, 2023 which was introduced in the Lok Sabha during the Monsoon Session was passed by the Rajya Sabha in the first week of the Winter Session. The Bill seeks to amend the 125-year-old Indian Post Office Act. According to the Bill, the new enactment has been brought about to provide a simple legislative framework to regulate the functioning of post offices in the country and to facilitate the development of post offices into a network for the delivery of citizen-centric services. The Bill will empower the Director General of Postal Services to make rules regarding essential activities and fix fees for services.
The Advocates (Amendment) Bill, 2023 was taken up for consideration and passed in the Lok Sabha. The bill was earlier passed in the Rajya Sabha during the monsoon session. The Bill repeals certain sections related to touts under the Legal Practitioners Act of 1879.
The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment Bill) and the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment Bill) were jointly taken up for discussion and passed in the Lok Sabha, in the ongoing session after hours of discussion.
The Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill, 2023, amends the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Act, 2004. The Act provides reservation in jobs and admission in professional institutions to members of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and other socially and educationally backward classes.
On the other hand, the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill, 2023 amends the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019. The 2019 Act amended the Second Schedule of the 1950 Act to specify the total number of seats in the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly to be 83. The proposed Bill increases the total number of seats to 90. It also reserves seven seats for Scheduled Castes and nine seats for Scheduled Tribes. The Bill adds that the Lieutenant Governor may nominate up to two members from the Kashmiri migrant community to the Legislative Assembly. One of the nominated members must be a woman. Migrants are defined as persons who migrated from the Kashmir Valley or any other part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir after 01 November 1989 and are registered with the Relief Commissioner.
The Central Universities (Amendment) Bill, 2023 was moved in the Lok Sabha. It seeks to establish a Central Tribal University in Telangana.
Some interesting questions and responses
- A question on the number of districts that have declared themselves manual scavenging-free was raised in the Lok Sabha. The Ministry of Social Justice and Employment responded that as of November 2023, 714 districts out of 766 districts had declared themselves manual scavenging free or uploaded the data on insanitary latrines and manual scavengers on the ‘Swatchtha Abhiyan’ mobile application.
- A Rajya Sabha response to the question on deaths of humans due to human-wildlife encounters revealed that the number of deaths due to tiger attacks increased from 31 in 2018 to 103 in 2022 while that due to elephants increased from 457 to 605 between 2018-19 and 2022-23.
- A Question on increasing airfares was raised in the Lok Sabha to which the Civil Aviation Ministry responded that airfare is neither established nor regulated by the Government, as per the legal provisions. It added that under the provision of Sub Rule (1) of Rule 135 of the Aircraft Rules, 1937, every Air Transport Undertaking engaged in scheduled air services is required to establish a Tariff having regard to all relevant factors including cost of operation, characteristic of services and generally prevailing tariff.
- In the Rajya Sabha, the response to a question on measures taken by the government to promote traditional sports revealed that the Sports Ministry is supporting Silambam, Kalaripayatu, Mallakhamb, Khomlainai, Gatka, Mukna, Thang-Ta, etc. under Indigenous Games & Martial Arts (IGMA), a sub-scheme of National Sports Talent Contest (NSTC) run by Sports Authority of India (SAI). Further, the scheme supports a total of 133 athletes. The promotion of Rural/ Indigenous & Tribal Games is a sub-component of the Promotion of Inclusiveness through the sports component of the Khelo India Scheme which also supports traditional games.
- The state-wise expenditure incurred on prison inmates ranged from Rs. 21 crores in Assam to more than Rs. 400 crores in Uttar Pradesh in the financial year 2022-23, as per a response in Rajya Sabha. It was around Rs.55 to 60 crores in the states of Rajasthan and Punjab while Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh spent more than Rs.100 crores each. In Delhi, the expense was nearly Rs.275 crores.